pacifier and finger sucking
Did you know that finger sucking
and/or the use of a pacifier
alter the position of the tongue?
Habits such as the pacifier and finger
sucking are called non-nutritious sucking habits.
Sucking is a strong, instinctive
reflex action in newborns.
That is why during the first years
it is considered normal, because
is associated with a need for affective
and assurance satisfaction.
How do I stop my child from
sucking his/her finger?
However, sucking is meant to be programmed to work for only a determined period, and then extinguish progressively when milk teeth appear and the child acquires an adult chewing pattern, while leaving behind a sucking pattern.
In relation to non-nutritious sucking habits, it is important to know that:
- Babies who are exclusively breastfed until they are six months old are less likely to develop non-nutritious sucking habits (finger sucking and/or pacifier).
- The need for sucking is different in each child and it generally decreases with age. However, it seems that the habit of finger sucking is more difficult to quit than the pacifier.
- The long-term effects of prolonged sucking habits (after age 2) are related to malocclusions (incorrect closure of the mouth / incorrect relation between the upper maxillary and the jaw), especially with anterior open bites and cross bites, which is more serious and permanent.
- Malocclusion is a multifactorial pathology, so the effects of prolonged sucking habits vary according to its duration, frequency and intensity, facial muscles, genetic predisposition, etc.
- Not all habits have the same meaning or the same sequels for each child, so a specific age to start treatment cannot be determined. We believe therapy must be postponed until the dental and emotional risks and consequences of the habits become greater than their benefits.
Anterior open bite
Our advice regarding non-nutritive sucking habits is:
Never wet the pacifier in honey or any other liquid that contains sugar.
- Do not hang the pacifier from your baby's clothes; having it at hand at all times is not recommended.
- If your baby falls asleep with the pacifier on, gently take it out and then close his/her mouth.
- Pacifiers must be cleaned daily. Check the manufacturer's hygiene instructions.
- Choose the pacifier according to your child's age. Orthodontic pacifiers are the most recommended, and the ideal material is silicon, as latex favours bacterial retention.
- All children must stop using a pacifier or sucking their fingers around 18 months or right before their second birthday, to reduce the risk of an incorrect bite (malocclusion), that could persist until they have their permanent set of teeth.
- Every child over 3 years old who persists on an oral habit and every child who has an early malocclusion must visit a paediatric dentist to offer the family the necessary information about the consequences of the habit and to determine the need for treatment, to avoid further bone malformations.
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